Writings & Photography of Jim Murtagh

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The Writings & Photography of Jim Murtagh

my Writing

Many nights, just before I fall asleep, I experience a moment of exceptional clarity in my thoughts. It is at this instant, that the writing process begins for me. Random phrases and ideas combine into sentences with incredible ease. Words take on color and shape, and my articles develop into a type of motion picture in my head. I struggle to restrain the flow, so that I might have a chance to record my thoughts on paper or a digital recorder. Unfortunately, once interrupted, the words begin to vanish, like the details in a dream.

Please enjoy the following samples of my writing.

The Big Night: Jeepers Creepers, here come the spring peepers and...
Raindrops bounce from the roadway, like marbles dropped on a tile floor. The sky is dark, not just because the sun already set, but because thick clouds obscure all light from the moon and stars. It’s a warm, spring evening. Water pools on the surface of the saturated, thawing ground. Streams and rivers are swollen, and basements are certainly flooding from the deluge. (read more)

Crabbing: Low-tech family fun!
"All kids love crabbing” says Lloyd Hummel, who drove an hour from his Oxford home with his two children, Samantha and Lloyd Jr., in hopes of catching a bushel of delicious blue crabs for their evening dinner. The Hummels made the trip to the Hammonasset River on the Madison/Clinton border as part of a summer tradition the family has enjoyed for the past five years. (read more)

Flight of Fancy
The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is a feisty creature. A scant three inches tall, the birds’ diminutive stature belies its fierce nature. Hovering in midair, two birds battle to determine which has the right to drink from the hanging feeder. The combatants duel by mirroring the others’ flight pattern, bobbing up and down, and circling one another in an impressive display of aerial ballet. Highly territorial, a hummingbird will attempt to drive a rival off with a barrage of shrill chirping. (read more)

Monsters of the Sound
A life and death struggle takes place 40 feet below the water’s surface. Fourteen ounces of lead weight keeps my bait, a foot and a half long Menhaden, or bunker, in the middle of a large school of striped bass. (read more)

Under a Spring Moon
There's romance under the full moon. Below the water's surface, a few feet from the beach, horseshoe crabs are in the mood for love. And that's just dandy for biology professor Dr. Sean Grace and his research student Miguel Reyes, who are prowling the dark waters at Clinton’s Town Beach in search of a pre-historic looking arthropod that has roamed coastal seas for 300 million years. (read more)

Kayaking the Marsh
Perched high on a marsh reed, a Red-winged Blackbird spies our approach. The sentinel announces our presence through song to all the other birds in the area. Barely making a ripple as our wake, we silently paddle through a backwater slough on the Connecticut River. The colorful hulls of the kayaks leave a distorted reflection on the glossy water. A pair of Canada Geese tends to their nest which is well hidden in low-lying clumps of green and brown grass. In a few days, the tufted yellow goslings will hatch and create havoc throughout the marshland as they curiously begin to explore their new world. (read more)

Returning Home
Even a hundred years of failure cannot suppress the natural instinct to survive, and as futile as the attempt may prove, thousands of foot-long silver-sided river herring will once again embark on a spring migration. Called from the salty water of Long Island Sound by internal biological forces, alewives and blueback herring begin a journey that takes them from the sea, upstream into the cool freshwater of Queach Brook, a tributary of the Branford River, on their way to find suitable spawning grounds. (read more)

Wallow in the Hollow - Going Vertical
Brien Roscetti yells “rope” immediately before tossing a coil of blue dynamic climbing rope over the edge of a sixty-foot high rock face in Chatfield Hollow State Park. Oblivious to the climbers, a red-tailed hawk soars just above the trees, nearly at eye level, and a warm stiff breeze stirs the forest which is ready to explode with buds. The unwieldy package lands with a thud and tightens the non-stretch static anchor lines to which it is attached. Roscetti, a fifteen year climbing veteran from Clinton, is preparing to tackle Wallow in the Hollow, an ascent that is rated at 5.12d on a scale that maxes out at 5.15. (read more)

A Big Night For Migrating Amphibians
A “Big Night” out for most people involves getting dressed to the nines and indulging in an elaborate dinner, but for some adventurous environmentally conscious individuals, donning a reflective rain slicker and scanning the pavement along the roadside with a flashlight in hopes of finding migrating amphibians, can be equally satisfying.(read more)

Eagle Cruisin’ On the CT River
Broken apart by a Coast Guard vessel, the ice which once stretched across the Connecticut River, now collects in boulder size chunks along the banks. The vibrant whites of the frozen rubble are a stark contrast to the deep blue hue of the open water. The RiverQuest, a 55 foot twin-hull excursion vessel, is traveling northward, but will soon reverse its course at navigation marker number 29, because free floating ice obstructs the channel. (read more)

Preserving the Call of the Wild
Just inches from the crowd, Atka, a four and half year old Arctic gray wolf, is led up and down the aisles. A myriad of flashes pop in his face, but he is unfazed by the cameras. He looks and acts like a well trained dog with thick creamy white fur and gray and buff markings, but the audience is requested to not reach out to pet him.(read more)

Invasive Crabs
Exposed and vulnerable, half a dozen dime size crabs dart for cover. Their tan and black striped legs shuffle them sideways across the moist sand. Franticly, they search for a place to hide. Some crabs disappear into crevices among nearby rocks, while others attempt to conceal themselves by burrowing into the beach. (read more)

Into the Surf
The outgoing tide and lack of wind make the ocean appear weak. The surf rolls lazily onto the beach and golden waves ripple across the ocean, reflecting the glow of the setting sun. Before the sky darkens and nighttime descends, Mike Mulligan walks into the surf. (read more)

Fall Migration - Taking Flight
Deep within a salt marsh beyond Meigs Point at Hammonasset Park, a Merlin sits atop a decaying wooden post. This regal, slate-brown falcon is well known for spectacular aerobatics as it seizes prey, birds and insects, in midair assaults. The tide retreats, and rivulets of sea water flow around the clumps of green and brown marsh grass, and eventually settle back into the Sound. Along the marsh’s fringe, a Snowy Egret wades through the viscous black muck. Frenetically searching for food, the white bird’s long beak roots through the mud and water dislodging fish and amphibians.(read more)

Flying Flowers
The golden-yellow petals of the Black-eyed Susan glimmer in the morning sunlight. A gentle breeze carries the potpourri of scents from the brightly colored flowers growing tall in the garden, and fills the air with summer freshness. From a distance, the garden appears peaceful, but upon closer inspection, it is awash in a flurry of activity. (read more)

The Sky's the Limit
A gentle breeze disturbs the canopy lying on the grass, and then suddenly the multi-colored chute fills with air and pops into the sky. The control lines tighten, and the pilot begins to walk forward. Three quick steps, a slight hop, and then he is airborne. Suspended just a few feet above the ground, the pilot revs the throttle on the gasoline engine, and the fifty inch propeller, strapped to the harness on his back, races. (read more)

Geocaching - Techno Treasure Hunting
The arrow on the handheld GPS unit points to the left and four year old Aidan Fiala yells out “The treasure is this way.” The young adventurer has already walked through a field, went through a tunnel, crossed a river, and now he stands in the middle of a salt marsh surrounded by beautiful views of Long Island Sound. The path he is following splits in three, and only one leads to the buried loot. (read more)

Pirates of the Marsh: Great Horned Owl
The pirate of the salt marsh sits confidently in her nest, a nest that last year belonged to a pair of osprey. Atop the manmade nesting box, the Great Horned Owl nestles beside her fledgling. From her elevated vantage, she can over-see her territory and defend it from marauders.(read more)

Mountain Kings
After a quick check to make sure the landing area was clear, the rider picked his line and began pedaling. Looking up from a vantage point nearly a dozen feet below the rock outcrop, you could hear the 26 inch knobby tread tires approaching, but the bike and rider remained unseen. For a fraction of a second, there was silence as the bike became air-borne, and the rider came into full view. (read more)

Here Come the Trout!
Trout fall from the net, like candy dropping from a piñata. Momentarily stunned, the fish collect en masse. A mixture of brook, brown and rainbow trout swim in circles at the spot of their release. Twelve inch long rainbows shimmer in the water, but look like bait fish swimming beside gigantic four and five pound brown trout. (read more)

Eagle Hunter
Without a sound, an adult eagle descends from the sky at a speed approaching 40 miles per hour. Its outstretched wings, measuring over six feet from tip to tip, slow the bird’s high altitude descent, so that its two inch long razor sharp yellow talons can snatch the fish from the cormorant, before the unsuspecting bird can mount a retreat.(read more)

Sweet Rewards
An assemblage of galvanized steel buckets hangs from the trees along the forest’s edge. Small specimens support a lone bucket, while mature trees bear the weight of two or three containers. Listen carefully and you can hear the sound of sweetness, as the trees play their seasonal song with the orchestrated drip of maple sap. (read more)

Call of the Wild
A cluster of tiny black dots streaks across the sky. The birds are too far away to see them clearly. If it wasn’t for their rapid movement and contrast against the bright sky, their presence might go undetected. The hunter grabs the duck call hanging from a lanyard around his neck, puts it to his lips, and blows softly. (read more)

Haying Time
On a hot summer day, an old red tractor rumbles along through a big open field kicking up dust. The tractor, a 45-year old Ford, affectionately called "Old Red," pulls a hay tedder, a rake-like piece of machinery that turns over the crop. (read more)

The Last Lobsterman
Early on a May morning, the horizon glows like wildfire and the sky is splashed with red and orange hues. The sun rises silently and a new day is revealed. At this hour- 5 a.m.- most here in Stony Creek are still asleep, but the seagulls squawk searching for breakfast. (read more)

A Matter of Taste
Thanks to ancient farming practices adopted by Tony La Bella and his daughter Donna King, the potatoes grown on La Bella Farm in Branford are unique. The pair has managed to successfully adapt the strategy to their onions, lettuce, zucchini and 25 other crops, all with the same astonishing results.(read more)

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Jim Murtagh